2019 Growing Season Is Off to a Challenging Start

Hands Free Farm

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March 29, 2019

Low commodity prices and cool, wet weather has many farmers uncertain.

Mother Nature Not Cooperating

We’ve all seen the heartbreaking news stories coming out of the western corn belt this past week, and our sincere thoughts and prayers go out to everyone experiencing these historic floods. Record snowfall and cold temps across the north-central United States this winter were followed by a rapid period of warming and heavy rains. This was an unfortunate perfect storm for large stretches of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin.

Even areas not experiencing these weather extremes are trending cooler and wetter this spring, and that has most farmers on edge. It looks like 2019 is setting for another late start, which will mean farmers will have to do everything possible to compress their spring fieldwork and planting into as few days as possible. That will mean longer days covering more acres to try and make up for Mother Nature’s harshness. 2018 was a similar story across much of the Midwest, and farmers answered with near record-setting planting progress speeds.

It’s during times like these farmers really appreciate the larger planters that can cover more ground and refill faster with bulk seed setups. But there’s another technology that pays extra dividends during times like these – autosteer. Using autosteer to plant enables farmers to cover more ground per hour for more hours per day.

Commodity Markets Adding Stress

The other topic that has many farmers uncertain about 2019 are the low commodity prices, and overall market volatility with so many unknowns around tariffs and trade. As a result, there is a strong desire to find ways to decrease the cost of production without sacrificing potential yields. The average costs of production in 2019 are forecasted to be $671.51 per acre of corn and $506.38 per acre of soybeans, according to a recent newsletter from Iowa State.

Fortunately, autosteer can help here too by decreasing input costs due to overlaps in the field. Preventing overlaps in the field during tillage, nutrient application, planting and applying crop protection products means savings on fuel, labor, machinery and crop inputs like herbicides, fertilizers and seed. While overlaps vary based on size and shape of fields, size of equipment and type of agronomic activity; many experts agree that farmers overlap an average of around 3%. Interestingly, data suggests that farmers with smaller, more irregularly shaped fields benefit most from adopting autosteer technology.

Using data from the Iowa State study reference in the previous paragraph, farmers can can expect to save $12.51 per acre in corn* and $7.71 per acre in soybean* production costs, per growing season. Put another way, this is equal to reducing your cost or production by 6.4 cents per bushel in corn and 13.8 cents per bushel in soybeans. As profit margins get tighter and tighter, every little bit helps.

While common sense might seem to encourage farmers to reduce capital investments during challenging times, it’s important to remember that autosteering is an effective way to increase efficiency and profitability, especially in more challenging scenarios like 2019 is shaping up to be.

*Based on 3% reduction in labor, machinery, seed, fertilizer and chemicals costs in the Iowa State University Extension 2019 Estimated Cost of Production.

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